A brooding, resonant novel set in Argentina. Irish writer Tóibín (The Heather Blazing, 1993; the nonfiction The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe, 1995; etc.) is fascinated with the ways that suppressed feelings can shape and deform character, and the often destructive and always disruptive manner in which long repressed emotions can emerge. Here, Richard Garay, a closeted gay man who lives in Buenos Aires and works as an English teacher, practices a painful politics of self-repression aptly matching that of his nation in and after the grip of dictatorship: fear and silence give his life an anonymous quality and his city a sense of unhappy monotony, emptied of freedom, justice, possibility, community. The narrative follows Richard's mostly tragic awakening to himself. Tóibín's tone is cool, unsqueamish, and discreet; his fondness for understatement when describing emotional turbulence is admirable and quite effective. Richard tells his own story: how he ekes out a life of lies with his aging British mother in a shabby downtown apartment, estranged from the rest of the family; how he survives her death, then is recruited and lucratively rewarded by a CIA-like US diplomatic organization as a translator and advance man to help protect and promote American economic and political interests in Argentina; how he sleeps around before finding love with Pablo Canetto, a younger man. Richard keeps trying to trade up in every respect, but the costs are unexpectedly steep. He surrenders his sense of fairness as an Argentinean to American moneymen, betrays his mother's memory, himself, and, finally, his lover--all quietly, remotely, with devastating ease. Eventually, he finds that he has lost, through long repression, the ability to feel, to respond, to trust, and only after a tragic discovery does he begin to regain those qualities. A memorably hard-headed, well paced and plotted reverie on loss.